Ontario MP Scott Aitchison is putting together a team for a Conservative leadership bid and is expected to announce his candidacy next week, Global News has learned.
The two-time Parry Sound-Muskoka MP is a dark horse candidate in a race expected to be dominated by Pierre Poilievre, the only declared candidate in the contest so far.
Aitchison confirmed to Global News Thursday that he was putting together a team for a leadership run.
“I am building a team that will bring Canadians and our party together,” Aitchison said in a brief email statement.
“We are still waiting for the final rules from the (party’s leadership organizing committee) and I’ll have more to say in the days ahead.”
A source working with Aitchison, who spoke to Global News on the condition they not be named, said the former Huntsville mayor will focus his campaign around “character and tone.” Aitchison is expected to play off his experience in municipal politics, where politicians are obliged to work across partisan lines to get things done.
“Leaders lead by inspiring those around them to greatness. They inspire a hope that tomorrow will be brighter than today. They lift everyone up, not just those who agree with them,” Aitchison recently told the House of Commons.
“They seek to bring people together, to give the voiceless a voice and a seat at the table. Leaders stand up for every citizen: every Canadian, urban, rural, rich or poor, white-collar, blue-collar, right and left, regardless of their faith or creed and regardless of their place of origin.”
Aitchison made those comments on Feb. 21, during the debate over the Liberal government’s decision to invoke the Emergencies Act in order to address the convoy protests in Ottawa and border blockades.
But they take on a new light as Aitchison prepares to enter what is likely to be a divisive leadership race, which has already turned personal despite there being only one declared candidate.
The party announced late Wednesday night that the next leader of the party — the third in five years — will be announced on Sept. 10, giving candidates six months to win over Conservative party faithful.
But candidates will have until only June 3 to sign up new members — an extremely important part of any successful Conservative leadership campaign.
The relatively short window benefits candidates like Poilievre, who already have strong name recognition and a following within the Conservative movement, even if his supporters were pushing for a much shorter race.
It also could benefit another potential leadership candidate with strong name recognition — former Progressive Conservative leader and Quebec Premier Jean Charest – who told reporters in Ottawa Wednesday that he would wait for the rules of the race before deciding if he’d make a bid.
Candidates have until April 19 to apply for candidacy in the Conservative leadership race, and must come up with $300,000 — a $200,000 entry fee and $100,000 compliance deposit, refundable after the race — to be eligible.